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Wednesday, December 23, 2009
A Dangerous Piece of Stupidity

Warren Kozak has an excellent piece in today's WSJ explaining The Real Rules of War. After noting the curious case of the Navy SEALs Being Court-Martialed for Punching a Captured Terrorist, he reminds us that all wars--even the "good" ones--are uncivilized:

This incident and its twisted irony takes me back to an oddly serene setting many years ago. When I was in college, I joined my parents on a trip to retrace my father's wartime experience in Europe. We drove from France, through Holland and Belgium and on to Germany--the same route he had taken with the U.S. Army in 1944-45. At a field outside the Belgian town of Malmedy, we got out of our rented car where my father described something I had never heard before.

During the Battle of the Bulge, in the bleak December of 1944, the Germans had quickly overrun the American lines. They took thousands of prisoners as they pushed through in a last chance gamble to turn the war around. One unit, part of the First SS Panzer Division, had captured over a hundred GIs. They were moving fast, and they didn't care to be burdened by prisoners. So the SS troops put the American soldiers in that field and mowed them down with machine guns.

Around 90 Americans were killed in that barrage. The Germans then walked through the tangle of bodies, shooting those who were still alive in the back of the head. The few that survived were brought to where my father was located in the nearby town of Liege where word of the massacre quickly spread.

My father was never a talker. And in spite of the fact that we were on a trip to look at his past, he didn't open up much, or couldn't. When I asked him what the reaction was among the U.S. troops, he answered without emotion: "We didn't take prisoners for two weeks." I immediately understood what he meant, and had the sense not to press the issue any further. I just looked out at the field, now green and peaceful on a beautiful summer day, and realized he was looking at the same field and seeing something quite different.

In the weeks following the Malmedy massacre, U.S. troops clearly broke the rules of the Geneva Conventions. Justified or not, they were technically guilty of war crimes.

My guess is that the American correspondents imbedded with those troops knew all about this and chose not to report it. So did their officers. They understood the gravity of the war, as well as the absolute importance of its outcome. And they understood that disclosing this information might ultimately help the enemy. In other words, they used common sense. Was the U.S. a lesser country because these GIs weren't arrested? Was the Constitution jeopardized? Somehow it survived.

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Friday, December 04, 2009
Measures of Defeat

Gary Larson belatedly (better late than never) reviews Mark Moyar's excellent book on the Vietnam War--Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965--and shares some of his own experiences in a piece at Intellectual Conservative :

We laugh, yet again, at joke #10 in our repertoire of what passes for barracks humor. In a few precious hours we will count the Republic F-105 Thunderchiefs (a.k.a. "thuds" to us), as one by one they return to base, touching down with empty bomb racks, another sortie over North Vietnam, unreported by news media anywhere.

Today their return is 100%, but it is not always so. When the unthinkable happens, a pall settles over our jungle air base. Long faces everywhere, mess hall to chapel. Friends of the downed crews are glum, quiet over the tragic loss(es). Survivors, yet to be informed.

My smart-alecky remark about not bombing Hanoi, ironically, reflects the typical, cynical, young GIs' exasperation with LBJ's "limited" warfare. The reaction of most of us then twenty-somethings, young Turks all, is summed up by one seething sentence: "We're asked to win this f'in war with one arm strapped behind our backs."

"Limited war" puzzles us. So, too, are its fuzzy, dippy cousins, "appropriate response," "measured" and "graduated pressure." What the hell is THAT all about? Who does the measuring? What's appropriate? Do we really want to win this g_d? awful bloody war, or not? Defecate or get off the pot, dammit.

Fundamentally, "limited war" violates longtime U.S. military precepts. That is, when faced by an intractable foe, apply overwhelming power at the point of attack, to overwhelm the enemy, drive it to ground.

LBJ inherited JFK's batch of "the brightest," also called "Whiz Kids," led by a know-it-all former car-maker, the later regretful Secretary of Defense, Robert S. McNamara. Opting for "limited war," not all-out, they squirrelly contradicted advice of wiser, seasoned heads, mainly military, often called "warmongers." Fighting a limited war became a politically correct, politically expedient Rx on how to lose slowly, painfully, with devastating loses, in a protracted conflict in a faraway place.

What WAS Washington thinking? Such decisions, far above our junior pay grades, were incomprehensible to us jungle lackeys. Pull our punches? Not give the struggle our all? But then, what did we young, dumb "boots on the ground" know? We had not studied von Clausewitz's treatises on war, or War & Politics 101. Our lives were merely on the line. Ours was not, in the old soldiers' phrase, to question why.

We had the opportunity to interview Mark Moyar on his book back in December of 2006 on the NARN. You can listen to that interview here. If you want to understand the real history of the Vietnam War, "Triumph Forsaken" is a good place to start. The guys like Gary who served there deserved better from their leaders at the time and today deserve for more people to appreciate what really happened.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Free To Go

All of the recent commentary and remembrances of the fall of the Berlin Wall remind us again of how the Wall became a stark symbol of the divide and differences between the Communist block and the West. It brought clarity to the Cold War struggle and made efforts to claim moral relativism between the two sides more difficult (although certainty not impossible as proven by many on the left). Building it turned out to be an enormous public relations blunder for the Communists. It was hard to argue that your system was better when you had to build a wall to keep your own people from escaping to the other side.

One of the difficulties in the current struggle against radical Islam is that aren't such concrete examples readily available to highlight the differences between the combatants. Yes, we see the evil in suicide bombers, terrorizing civilians, oppressing women, etc. but there isn't that one symbol that really clarifies matters as the Wall did. If the Islamists had their way they probably would like to erect their own version of a wall around their fantasy "caliphate" to keep their own people in and keep the forces of modernity out.

Thoughts of the Wall also lead to the observation that you can still judge a country by how difficult they make it to enter and exit. For example, coming into the United States--even for a US citizen--isn't always a breeze. The immigration folks are going to check your passport and almost always ask you some questions about where you've been and where you're going. But there are almost no controls on leaving. If you fly out, the airlines will make sure you have a valid passport, but that's about it. Pretty much the same for an EU country. Show your passport when you arrive, leave with ease.

Other countries that I've traveled to--Mexico, Russia, China, the Philippines--control your coming and going. For Russia and China you need a visa to enter and are expected to have your passport on hand at all times. In Mexico and China you fill out an entry card upon arrival and are expected to turn it in when you leave (someday I'll recount my tale of evading that requirement once in Mexico--after the statue of limitations expires). In all of these countries you have to go through some form of emigration control before you leave and in Manila you even get to pay an "airport users charge" for the privilege of departing. None of these examples are anything like the Wall of course, but the degree of a country's freedom and prosperity can still be related to how easy or difficult it is to leave.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

At a recent company meeting about change, I was asked to follow the following Rod Serling like instructions: Imagine if you will, a powerful and prosperous country; truly a world leader. Consider the following facts about this country:

- It is a large, representative democracy.
- It has the world's largest economy, with the highest per capita GDP of any nation
- It's currency is the world's reserve currency
- It's largest city is the center of the financial world
- It's sphere of influence extends to all continents (except Antarctica)
- It's military was the most powerful in the world, thanks mainly to superior technology as opposed to overwhelming manpower
- It is engaged in the occupation of a large country in southern Asia

What would the future hold for such a nation? Let's ask the British in 1900.


Friday, June 12, 2009
Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Finally got around to reading Iris Chang's "The Rape of Nanking" (the Chinese city now usually called Nanjing). The book is the story of the wide-spread massacres and atrocities committed by Japanese troops after taking the city in 1937. Like Richard Rhode's Masters of Death: The SS-Einsatzgruppen and the Invention of the Holocaust (which details the actions of SS units who began the "Final Solution" on the eastern front) the horrific nature of the acts makes for difficult reading at times.

I was struck by the similarity between the reaction of the Chinese civilians and soldiers to their fate and that of many Jews during the Holocaust. Despite plenty of obvious evidence to the contrary, they clung to a belief that they would be okay right up until the very end. The Japanese troops carrying out the killings were often outnumbered ten and even a hundred to one by their prisoners yet there were very few instances of any resistance even though the Chinese likely would have been able to overwhelm their captors had they acted together. It's probably part of human nature at some level to refuse to accept that a horrible fate awaits and to rationalize your way into inaction.

I don't know if there are any lessons that one can take from this (and hopefully they would never need to be applied), but one seems to be that if armed men come to take you away you should assume the worst. Resistance at that point, even if futile, is probably preferable to the alternative. It reminds me of how people are usually advised that if you are getting car jacked or kidnapped, the best chance of escape is in the initial moments of the attack.

Unlike the Holocaust, the Rape of Nanking has not received the historical attention or study that it deserves. I would venture to guess that most Americans aren't even aware that it occurred and few appreciate the scale and scope of the murderous brutality. Chang's book is a good place to start to remedy that ignorance.

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Saturday, April 11, 2009
Been There

A brief excerpt that appeared in the opinion pages of today's Wall Street Journal:

Doris Kearns Goodwin on Lyndon Baines Johnson and the Great Society, in "Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream":

In his determination to get Congress and America moving again, Johnson demanded support for the Great Society and confidence in the capacity of government to improve all the conditions of society as matters of faith. . . . The intensity of his own belief strengthened his formidable persuasive powers. . . . In so expansive an era, filled with such benevolent intentions, the boundaries between fact and fiction, between the present and the future, no longer held. . . .

And so it went in message after message. The subjects might change, but the essentials remained the same: in the opening, an expression of dire need; in the middle, a vague proposal; in the end, a buoyant description of the anticipated results -- all contained in an analysis presented in a manner that often failed to distinguish between expectations and established realities. . . .

[T]he need for haste often resulted in a failure to define the precise nature and requirements of social objectives. Legislative solutions were often devised and rushed into law before the problems were understood . . . Pass the bill now, worry about its effects and implementation later -- this was the White House strategy.

Sound familiar?

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Thursday, October 09, 2008
Dream Vacation

Regarding that sobering speech by David McCullough I referenced a couple of days ago, Jenny writes in with the find:

I think this is the CSPAN video of David McCullough you couldn't find. It last aired about a week ago. Powerful stuff from a favorite historian who knows the costs we pay for ignorance.

You can also view the video in 2 segments here.

Thanks for the good work.

Those are the correct links to that remarkable speech, thanks Jenny.

That second link directs to a site associated with the occasion of the McCullough's speech back in April, the official opening of the "Journey Through Hallowed Ground." Organized by the National Park Service, it is a tour through 65 of the historic sites of Northern Virginia's Piedmont region. A summary for those, like me, previously unfamiliar with this intense concentration of American history:

The Northern Virginia Piedmont region is a scenic and historically rich landscape that has "soaked up more of the blood, sweat, and tears of American history than any other part of the country," according to the late historian C. Vann Woodward. "It has bred more founding fathers, inspired more soaring hopes and ideals and witnessed more triumphs, failures, victories, and lost causes than any other place in the country."

Meandering through more than 75 miles and nine counties of Virginia hillside, U.S. Route 15 and State Route 20 form the spine of the Piedmont. This National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary explores 65 historic places that evoke in vivid detail the soldiers, statesmen, farmers, and slaves who fought, toiled, and governed in the Virginia Piedmont.

Here is a listing of all sites features on the Journey. Really an astonishing and enticing collection of museums, battlefields, and landmarks associated with the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and other events of historical importance. Featured are three Presidential estates, many other private residences notable persons, schools, churches, courthouses, and historic districts that were the settings for many critical events for the country.

It all looks to be fun and educational for the entire family. There are a few sites that will be of particular interest to dear ol' Dad. Historic bars and taverns. Including:

The Red Fox Inn -

Where everyone is greeted with a chorus of "You big dummy!"

Actually, it has nothing to do with that old guy from Sanford and Son, it predates him by a century or two:

The Red Fox Inn was a meeting spot for Confederate Colonel John Mosby and his Rangers. A century later, President Kennedy's press secretary, Pierre Salinger, held press conferences at the Red Fox in the Jeb Stuart room. Rawleigh Chinn, who originally owned the land on which Middleburg developed, reputedly built a tavern near this intersection in 1728.

Madden's Tavern -

No, it's not a football video game themed sports bar at the Mall of America. It's much, much more:

This simple log structure is a rare relic of pre-Civil War black entrepreneurship in rural Virginia. Completed about 1840, the tavern was built by, owned, and operated by Willis Madden (1800-1879) a free black, and was likely the only tavern in the region with a proprietor of Madden's race. Virginia free blacks were able to earn and keep wages and to own and operate a business, but were forbidden to vote, bear arms, testify against a white person, or be educated. Madden built the tavern on property purchased in 1835 on the Old Fredericksburg Road.

Boswell's Tavern -

A landmark for travelers since Nicholas Johnson built its earliest section c.1735, this weatherboarded structure on the edge of the Green Springs Historic District is one of the state's time-honored rural taverns. It was purchased in 1761 by Johnson's brother-in-law, John Boswell, who served as proprietor until his death in 1788. A number of political figures, including Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and James Madison frequented the tavern. It served as a headquarters for the Marquis de Lafayette in 1781.

Can you imagine the pride any American would have in grabbing a seat at the bar, having a few dozen belts, and falling off the same barstool as Patrick Henry?

(hic) Give me Leinenkugel's or give me death! (CRASH!)

Caution, some of these "taverns" on the tour now appear to be private residences rather than active public houses for alcohol. But I bet if you asked the owners real nice for something to drink, they'd give you something for the effort.

Either way, the "Journey Through Hallowed Ground" and now enters my top 10 future vacations list (and the tour of Joe Biden's Boyhood Home gets bumped back to 2019).

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Friday, April 04, 2008
The Boom Still Echoes

There's a great piece in the April issue of First Things by George Wiegel called The Sixties, Again and Again (sub req):

I don't propose to revisit the question of whether what we call the Sixties was in fact born in the Fifties, or whether it unfolded its full plumage in that low decade, the Seventies. Rather, I want to examine six crucial moments in the Sixties with an eye to how they reshaped American political culture, with effects still being felt today. What a large segment of American political culture learned from those moments constitutes the issues-beneath-the-issues in 2008--and in that important sense, America is still fighting battles begun in the Sixties, like it or not.

The six crucial moments he looks at are:

1. The Assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963

2. Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965

3. The Tet Offensive in 1968

4. The Kerner Commission in 1968

5. The Publication of The Secular City in 1965

6. The Rise of Environmentalism in 1969

While most of these events are somewhat familiar (excepting number five), I've never seen their individual (and collective) impact on American society, culture, and politics described as effectively as Weigel does here. In summary:

Taken together, these six moments suggest that something of enduring consequence happened to liberal politics, and thus to American political culture, during the Sixties. A politics of reason gave way to a politics of emotion and flirted with the politics of irrationality; the claims of moral reason were displaced by moralism; the notion that all men and women were called to live lives of responsibility was displaced by the notion that some people were, by reason of birth, victims; patriotism became suspect, to be replaced by a vague internationalism; democratic persuasion was displaced by judicial activism. Each of these consequences is much with us today. What one thinks about them defines the substratum of the politics of 2008, the issues-beneath-the-issues.

That this trajectory was unaffected by the victory of democracy and the free economy in the Revolution of 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Empire tells us something important about the post-Sixties phase of the story. Beginning in the late Sixties, American liberalism followed the path of the global Left, substituting social issues and lifestyle libertinism for its previous concerns with economics and participatory politics. American liberalism, like its European counterpart, adopted the strategy of the Italian Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci and began a long march through the institutions--first the universities, the media, the philanthropies, the religious communities; today the institutions of marriage and the family. That this has had the most ­profound impact on our politics is obvious: The American culture war, which is one of the preeminent issues-beneath-the-issues, shapes the public discourse on both domestic and foreign-policy questions every day.

The Baby Boomers were essentially handed the greatest country on earth in the Sixties and many of them (especially the leaders) did their damndest to try to destroy it and piss away two-hundred years of American tradition, excellence, and achievement because THEY knew better. Thanks again Boomers.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007
He's Old Enough To Know What's Right

Mark Steyn has an excellent piece at National Review Online on why we should be especially thankful to be Americans. He also addresses one of the myths about Europe that has bothered me for a long time:

But Americans aren't novelty junkies on the important things. "The New World" is one of the oldest settled constitutional democracies on earth, to a degree "the Old World" can barely comprehend. Where it counts, Americans are traditionalists. We know Eastern Europe was a totalitarian prison until the Nineties, but we forget that Mediterranean Europe (Greece, Spain, Portugal) has democratic roots going all the way back until, oh, the mid-Seventies; France and Germany's constitutions date back barely half a century, Italy's only to the 1940s, and Belgium's goes back about 20 minutes, and currently it's not clear whether even that latest rewrite remains operative.

The U.S. Constitution is not only older than France's, Germany's, Italy's or Spain's constitution, it's older than all of them put together. Americans think of Europe as Goethe and Mozart and 12th century castles and 6th century churches, but the Continent's governing mechanisms are no more ancient than the Partridge Family. Aside from the Anglophone democracies, most of "the west'"s nation states have been conspicuous failures at sustaining peaceful political evolution from one generation to the next, which is why they're so susceptible to the siren song of Big Ideas--Communism, Fascism, European Union. If you're going to be novelty-crazed, better the zebra-mussel cappuccino than the Third Reich.

The idea that we have much to learn from the Europeans--at least politically speaking--because their history goes back so much further than ours has always struck me as absurd. Yes, the peoples, cities, buildings, etc. of the various European countries have been around a long time. But in many cases their democratic forms of government are actually quite new and, in the cases of Germany and Italy, the formal existence of the nation itself (in terms of unification) came well after the United States.

When it comes to continuity of a freely-elected constitutional government, most of Europe has nothing on the United States. That is just another one of the many things we should be very thankful for.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Grecian Formula

Take one comely lass with a British accent. Add ancient Greek history as the subject matter and you've got some must-see television. That's right, the camera's favorite classical historian (sorry VDH) was back last night with ATHENS: THE DAWN OF DEMOCRACY:

Against the glorious backdrop of ancient Greece, classical historian Bettany Hughes (THE SPARTANS, HELEN OF TROY) explores the truth about the "Golden Age" of ancient Athens. Far from an environment of peace and tranquility, democratic Athens was a bloody, tumultuous place of both brilliant ideas and a repressive regime with a darker side.

The last time I caught Bettany Hughes on TV, she was delving into the history of the Spartans and drawing rave reviews. Good to see her continue to expand the audience for classical history.

Still no update on the proposed VDH pin-up calendar. But when we spoke to him Saturday before his interview on the NARN, he was on his bike so the ladies will be happy to know that he's still working the legs.

Speaking of fantasies involving VDH, how about this as a dream vacation?

Professors Bruce Thornton and Tom Conner are distinguished students of Europe modern and ancient, and accomplished public lecturers and scholars. I have asked them both to help provide us with an intellectually stimulating tour of Western Europe, characterized by both onsite and evening lectures about the culture, literature, and military history of Europe-especially the great battles of the continent that have changed the course of Western Civilization.

Touring the battlefields of Western Europe with Hanson as your guide? It really doesn't get any better.


Monday, October 01, 2007
The War

I've been watching The War on PBS, a more solitary experience that I would have predicted. Apparently its getting reasonably good ratings. But almost none of my circle is joining in, despite the fact that it is disproportionately populated with bookish history geeks, WWII buffs, and socially awkward people with nothing better to do with their evenings anyway. No matter what the ratings, this series certainly has not become the cultural phenomenon that Ken Burns' previous war epic, The Civil War, became 17 years ago. (Amazing to realize it's been 17 years since that was first run.)

For what its worth, I think The War has been excellent. I'm a great admirer of the Ken Burns style and pacing and if anything, he's gotten better at telling stories over the past two decades. I especially like how he does the openings, starting with a riveting, dramatic, often tragic first hand account of an incident, then slowly fading in the title to some appropriately emotional music. It gets me every time.

This production has drawn a multitude of critics, from both the multi-culti left and hard right (at least of Brooklyn, NY). But it seems to me if you can let go of the notion that this is a "definitive" account of World War II (something Burns denies), and appreciate it as a documentary of some of the millions of facets of this greatest of 20th century human endeavors, it has to be viewed as brilliant.

I would disagree with the PC liberals calling out Burns for inadequate representation of various racial minority experiences. If anything, Burns spends too much time viewing events through the racial prism. That war, and war in general, is so much larger than that. Sometimes it feels like he's doing the "World to End - Blacks and Japanese Americans Hardest Hit" routine. But those stories are real and fascinating (and real fascinating) and worth telling. I'm glad someone is doing it. Ken Burns is who he is, a product of late 20th century postmodern establishment liberal sensibility. I do wonder, if our society someday gets beyond its obsession with race (prediction, year 2476) will this documentary be looked on as an anachronistic artifact of this time.

One of the stories of intererst to me was the Battle of Peleliu, covered last night. A particularly brutal fight between US Marines and Japanese soldiers over a 5 sq. mile island, resulting in 12,000 deaths in two months (10,000 of whom were Japanese).

This was of particular intestest because last week while I was in San Diego, we toured the retired aircraft carrier USS Midway. While up in the "island" of the ship (where the bridge and flight control are located) an excited commotion broke out among the retired Navy guys giving the tour, and they announced a ship with the strange name "Peleliu" was entering the harbor after a months long overseas deployment. This picture is taken from outside the bridge of the Midway.

That white line around the perimeter are the sailors in their dress uniforms, "manning the rail," a US Navy tradition for ships coming home.

It was mentioned at the time that the USS Peleliu was coming home from Iraq. It turns out they were on a humanitarian mission in East Asia called 2007 Pacific Partnership:

The four-month humanitarian mission will bring together host nation medical personnel, partner nation military medical personnel and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to provide medical, dental, construction and other humanitarian-assistance programs ashore and afloat in the Philippines, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and the Marshall Islands.

In a brief pierside ceremony prior to the ship's departure, U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Robert Willard praised all involved with the mission that continues the long tradition of U.S. Navy support of humanitarian-assistance programs throughout the world and that reflects international compassion for the people of the Western Pacific region with whom many share common bonds.

"The United States is a Pacific nation, and as such, we share many interests, values and beliefs with our Pacific neighbors. As mariners, we have a tradition of rendering assistance to those in distress on the sea, and Pacific Partnership is a logical extension of these ideals," Willard said.

Particularly noble work for an amphibious assault ship, armed with 6 Harrier attack plans, 35 helicopters, the "Bushmaster" 25 mm gun (take that, Dennis Kucinich) and up to 1,900 Marines.

BTW, here's one more picture, me in one of the Midway's old T-2s, preparing to give the crew of the Peleliu a thrill with a low altitude pass.


Monday, June 04, 2007
World War II Veterans Memorial

WWII vets coming to St. Paul for last hurrah:

Some WWII soldiers are breaking out uniforms not worn for decades. Many will come in chartered buses, catch rides with their children or grandkids or drive in from around the nation.

Upwards of 20,000 people are expected to gather Saturday on the Capitol Mall in St. Paul to dedicate the new state memorial to World War II veterans. State Veterans Affairs Commissioner Clark Dyrud said it could be one of the largest gatherings ever of WWII veterans in Minnesota.

Among the crowd will be members of the Northern Alliance Radio Network as we'll be broadcasting our show live from the Capitol Mall this Saturday from 11am-5pm.

Events are scheduled to start at 10 a.m. with a roll call of 6,284 Minnesota servicemen and -women who died during the war

After a 2 p.m. flyover by WWII military aircraft, the dedication ceremony will begin. Speakers include Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Vessey and decorated WWII chaplain Delbert Kuehl. The program ends at 4:30 p.m.

There will be free samples of the ubiquitous WWII delicacy Spam, served from the Hormel "Spammobile;" WWII-era music, military vehicles and an Army encampment; newsreels; a bloodmobile; a Minnesota History Center tent showing films, and exhibits in the Capitol Rotunda, including people taking oral histories of veterans.

Free Spam? It really doesn't get any better. Might be a good opportunity to add to my NARN hosts eating photo collection too.

More information on the event is available here.

JB Chimes:
You know, I'm starting to hear this modern phrase "Men AND women killed in..." a lot more these days. You never used to hear that. How many WACs did we lose in the Big One anyway, a couple hundred?

More PC nonsense if you ask me.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Pride Prejudiced

Mark Yost visits Jamestown and finds something missing (WSJ sub req):

On May 13, 1607, 104 English men and boys waded ashore here. They then proceeded to decimate a native population that had lived in utter equanimity prior to their arrival, and would eventually import a slave-labor force to rape the continent of its natural resources, all for the ugly motivation of profit.

At least that's the central theme of the exhibits marking the 400th anniversary of Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in North America. There's no denying that those elements are part of the Jamestown story. But Jamestown contributed much more. It gave us three of our most important founding principles: private-property rights, representative government and civilian control of the military. Jamestown also was a strictly for-profit venture. Its eventual success laid the foundation for our capitalist, entrepreneurial culture, a development that cannot be understated.

"It was, in many ways, the most important colony," Jamestown historian and author Jim Horn told me during my visit.

Unfortunately, capitalism and the rule of law are given but a polite nod here. The overarching storyline is that Jamestown brought together three peoples from three different continents -- the English, the Native Americans and the Africans -- into a new multicultural society and all that it entails.

Why take pride in your history when it's much easier and morse satisfying to wallow in guilt?

Mr. Yost does find some interesting artifacts:

Young grad students can be seen sifting dirt and documenting artifacts. There's also an archaearium, a small museum built over the site of the last active statehouse here (1660-98). It features the usual artifacts, such as musket balls, pottery and pipes, as well as some unusual items. There's a combination toothpick and earwax scooper, as well as the Spatula Mundani, a long metal rod with a flat scooper at one end and a sharp probe at the other. It was created by Jamestown surgeon John Woodall to treat "severe constipation," a disease that "killeth many."

I would imagine the mere mention of using the Spatula Mundani probably cleared up the problem in most cases. No thanks Doc, I'm feeling better already. Mind if I borrow your newspaper?


Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Unsung Once Too Often

Mark Moyar, author of Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965 (listen to our interview with him here), says that when it comes to the media's treatment of military heroes and its self-congratulatory back-patting, the war in Iraq is indeed like Vietnam:

Neil Sheehan began his Pulitzer-Prize winning book "A Bright Shining Lie" by pronouncing the Vietnam War "a war without heroes." In the rest of the book, the Americans in Vietnam largely came across as fools, liars, criminals, or a combination thereof, with the exception of Mr. Sheehan and his fellow journalists, who were depicted as brave unmaskers of ineptitude and absurdity. Sheehan ignored the real heroism of many brave Americans--such as Marvin Shields, Carlos McAfee, Antonio Smaldone, and Steven L. Bennett, to name but a few--and many military victories, for American triumphs did not square with his claims about the war. He badly distorted press involvement in the war so that he and his colleagues, particularly David Halberstam and Stanley Karnow, could dodge the blame they deserved for promoting the disastrous coup against the South Vietnamese government in November 1963.

The Vietnam-era journalists began a tradition that today's press consistently upholds. We hear very little from most large press outlets about American heroes in Iraq and Afghanistan, men like James Coffman Jr., Danny Dietz, and Christopher Adlesperger, or about our military successes there. Instead of associating such names with these wars, Americans associate the words they hear most often from the press, like Abu Ghraib and Haditha. As in Vietnam, too, the shunning of heroes does not extend to the press's coverage of itself. Awards to journalists, both those who have spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan and those who have not, are considered worthy of lengthy news stories.


Wednesday, September 08, 2004
Numbers In Perspective

Now that we've reached the one thousandth US military death in Iraq, we can expect to hear and see constant emphasis on this sad statistic all week. We mourn for every one of our soldiers, sailors, and marines who have lost their lives in the conflict. But it is important to consider this number in the historical context of past wars that we have fought as well.

Here is a listing of military deaths through American history. The first number is combat deaths, the second is non-combat deaths during the conflict. (Sources: America's Wars Fact Sheet and Americans Killed in Action, Numbers, American War Library)

American Revolution:

War of 1812:
2260 (total)

Mexican War:

Indian Wars:
1000 (estimated total)

Civil War:

Spanish American War:

Philippines War:
4273 (total)

World War I:

Various Interventions 1900-1932 (Boxer Rebellion, Moro Campaigns, Dominican Republic(2X), Mexico, Nicaragua(2X), Haiti, Russia):
1055 (total)

World War II:



Gulf War:

In addition there have been single days in American military history with significant loss of life. (Source: Twentieth Century Atlas - Casualty Statistics)

Battle of Antietam 1862:
4300 (estimated)

Pearl Harbor 1941:

Battle of Chancellorsville 1863:
2358 (estimated)

Gettysburg 1863:
2353 (estimated average per day July 1-3)

D-Day 1944:

Grieve for the men and women who have died in Iraq. Support and console their families through this most difficult time. But don't forget that this is a war. And all wars come with a heavy price.

Remember another number that probably will not get as much play this week as the one thousandth military death in Iraq.

2738 American citizens killed in the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2004
It Wasn't THAT Far

Whiny Brits. I managed to get across the bridge at Arnhem in about ten minutes. Sure, there wasn't a horde of SS troops at the south end throwing sheets of lead at me when I made my crossing, but it was raining. Pretty hard I might add.

Last Friday I left Veenendaal about 3pm and headed east to Arnhem. Mitch Berg had suggested that I drive from Eindhoven to Arnhem, following the road that British armor and American paratroopers battled on in their unsuccessfully effort to link up with the British paras in and around Arnhem. But my schedule did not allow for it, and so I took a direct route to the town.

On the way I stopped by the impressive Airborne Museum at Oosterbeek, about six kilometers west of Arnhem. The museum is housed in the former Hartenstein Hotel, which became one of the last holdouts for the Brits as their perimeter was slowly, but surely squeezed by German forces during the fighting.

Close to the museum you find an arch dedicated to the airborne troops as well as a monument.There is also a military cemetery not too far away. If you have a chance I recommend checking them all out, especially the museum.

And the infamous John Frost bridge at Arnhem of course. No journey would be complete without a trip across it.

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Let's Talk About the Right of Citizens of the United States to Vote Not Being Denied or Abridged on the Basis of Sex, Baby

It was 84 years ago today. The place was Nashville, Tennessee. The date was August 18, 1920. Under conditions of stifling heat, oppressive humidity (and, as always, the pressure was immense at 32.28 millibars), the General Assembly of the Volunteer State met in special session to consider a matter which would alter the course of American history.

After a full day of fiery speeches, acrimonious debate, and a delightfully catered lunch, they voted, and by a one vote margin became the 36th state of the Union to ratify the 19th Amendment to the United Sates Constitution:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The decisive vote was cast by one Harry T. Burn (R-Niota). The first term congressmen, at 22-years-old, was the youngest member of the Assembly. He initially voted "aye" to table the measure (which would have ended debate and effectively killed ratification). This motion ended in a tie. Then, immediately following, during a hurriedly organized vote on ratification, he changed his stance and voted "aye" for it to pass. And so it did, thanks to him, at 49 - 47.

In the Tennessee Assembly House, according to reports:

Pandemonium prevailed. Women were screaming, weeping, singing. They threw their arms about each other and danced in the jam-packed aisles. Suffragist legislators tore off their yellow boutonnieres and threw them in the air to meet the gentle rain of yellow rose petals floating down from the galleries above!

Later when asked why he changed his stance on the measure, Harry T. Burn said:

"I know that a mother's advice is always safest for her boy to follow, and my mother wanted me to vote for ratification."

With that reasoning, Tennessee became the final piece needed to achieve a 3/4 majority of ratifying states. One week later, on August 26, US Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certified the ratification, and the face of the American electorate changed forever.

And, according to Vox Day (read this and keep scrolling up), sent our nation into a death spiral of tyrannical encroachment from which it will never escape. We're not sure how Vox is celebrating today's anniversary. We hope to see some commentary later today. But before publishing anything, we advise him to consult with his mother first.


Sunday, March 07, 2004
Must See TV

Those of you still reveling in the 3 hour majesty that was Northern Alliance Radio yesterday have a chance to get yet another dose of insightful, brilliant articulation of history and current events, with a moderately conservative perspective.

Today on C-SPAN 2, Victor Davis Hanson is the guest on In Depth. A 3 hour live interview with the National Review columnist and author of such classics as Who Killed Homer?, Carnage and Culture, and Mexifornia. For observations on Iraq and the broader war on terrorism, there is no better commentator in the country. He?s a professor of the classics at UC-Fresno, and the historical precedents he draws to current evens are always illuminating and help clarify the truth often lost in the murky rhetoric of a Presidential campaign season.

Hanson is also an expert on the topics of the decline of academic standards, immigration, and, believe it or not, growing avocados and grapes. It should all be fascinating stuff. C-SPAN President Brian Lamb doesn?t conduct many of these interviews anymore. Which is too bad, since he?s a masterful interviewer and a terrific journalist. But he still does make appearances for the more prestigious guests. And if we get 3 hours of Lamb and VDH today, this could be landmark television.

What: Victor Davis Hanson
Where: C-SPAN 2
When: 11 AM - 3 PM (central)

Replays of this program will be broadcast at 4 PM and 11 PM.

Northern Alliance Radio all day Saturday. Victor Davis Hanson all day Sunday. It literally doesn't get any better than this.


Thursday, August 07, 2003
Coming Soon: VDH Beefcake Calendar?

Noted military historian Victor Davis Hanson pictured at a different battlefield each month giving us a little leg, a nice smile, and a boatload of interesting historical facts. Sounds crazy? Consider this follow up e-mail to my post on fetching female historian Bettany Hughes:

I was watching it last night and was wondering why some studly male historian couldn't so something similar. Bettany was great, but I'd still like a bit of something for me. Equal time! :) VDH would indeed do nicely!

-Denise Ruth Absinthe & Cookies

You heard it here first.


It's Agreed: She's A Babe Of Historical Proportions

One of the interesting things about blogging is that it's often the short, right off the top of your head posts about arcane (even inane) subjects that draw the most interest. Case in point? My post from earlier today on historian Bettany Hughes. The post not only drew a nod from Instapundit it also has already sparked these comments:

I saw that PBS documentary last night and I have to admit as much as I love the subject matter, Bettany Hughes was the reason why I stuck around. How come I've never seen this woman before? -Steve Martinovich
Editor, Enter Stage Right

Excellent question Steve. An even better question would be, when will we be able to see her again? I'd watch a four hour documentary on the weaving of Aaron Brown's toupee if she was the hosting it.

Hey, no fair! I posted about Bettany Hughes first, but you get the Instalanche! I missed Arnie talking to Jay to watch that gorgeous Brit talk about Spartan sexual practices! I've got it on tape! Every time I'd almost turn it off, she put that damn red dress back on! -Mike Smith Firefive Blog (he's got more on this subject now at his blog)

Sorry about jumping your claim to the Instapundit link Mike but as you say there is a fine line between clever and stupid. Maybe this will bring a Fraterslanche to your blog. I hope your server can handle the additional six hits.

That PBS show on the Spartans was slowing down my blogging too. (Your assessment of the hostess/scholar was dead-on, btw.) I thought her descriptions of the Spartan women and the early American women who emulated their resolve should be required listening for the myriad modern-day Alan Alda-type wuss-mongers (male and female alike). -Brad Jones from Infinite Monkeys

And finally this comment from a reader who seems quite intrigued by the prospect of Victor Davis Hanson in a revealing outfit:

I don't know about the red dress, but VDH in hiking shorts and an open sport shirt at Delphi would certainly be attractive. Smart and attractive is fairly unbeatable combination. Thanks for the pointer to the show. I missed it, but I'll certainly look for a rebroadcast. -RR Ryan

Point well taken on VDH but personally I prefer to stick with Bettany and the red dress. History may never be looked at in the same way again.


Go Tell The Spartans...That She's Hot

Normally I like to take my lessons on ancient Greek history from the incomparable historian Victor Davis Hanson. VDH's knowledge of the subject is nearly unrivaled and his writing is incredibly detailed yet clear and compelling.

But after catching a few hours of of the PBS documentary 'The Spartans' last night I think I might have found myself a new favorite ancient Greek historian. Bettany Hughes is a ravishing Brit who hosted last evening's program and she certainly spices up any subject she chooses to address. Lest you think she's merely a talking head let it be known that Bettany has a Masters in Ancient and Modern History from a little school called Oxford.

Perhaps I'm a bit of an odd duck but for me there is something incredibly titillating about a statuesque, dark haired vixen with a British accent talking passionately about The Peloponnesian Wars. To say nothing of her analysis of the sexual mores of Spartan culture:

"Sparta was one of the few ancient civilizations that openly encouraged women to have sex with each other".

Whew. Talk dirty to me baby.

Until Victor Davis Hanson is willing to stand outside the Oracle at Delphi in a stunning red dress with legs from here to Thermopolis I'm officially becoming a Bettany man.


Monday, September 09, 2002
Don't Ever Stop Looking Back

Last night on C-SPAN, Victor Davis Hanson gave another brilliant speech on the position the US finds itself in vis-a-vis the war on terrorism and the corresponding, almost unanimous, criticism by the rest of the world. Unfortunately, there's no indication of a replay of this event via the C-SPAN site (although they're not very forthcoming with future broadcast schedules, so you never know).

However, VDH does have a new book coming out entitled "An Autumn of War" and he's participating in an online forum via the Washington Post on Wednesday, Sept. 11, at 10:00 AM CDT that will definitely be worth checking out.

Even as far back as Biblical times, philosophers and scholars have realized "What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, there is nothing new under the sun." (ECC 1:9 RSV) but it seems most people (of every era) forget this and we presume and act as if we're the first and only ones to face a particular challenge or set of circumstances. I get the sense that most Americans feel that we are alone in this dangerous and high stakes fight against radical Islam and state-sponsored terrorism, without any guidance besides our own, sometimes unreliable, reason to help us decide how we should proceed. The specter of weapons of mass destruction and an enemy who appears so eager to use them increases our sense of isolation and trepidation.

Hanson's unique contribution to modern journalism is his comprehensive understanding of history, particularly from the Classical era. His ability to identify previously hidden patterns of history and to relate them to a modern context is stunning and reassuring. Stunning in that you can't believe how clear and well defined these patterns are and how everyone else (particularly in the media/poltics) has missed them and trundle on as if we need to reinvent a new paradigm. Reassuring in that you come to realize other societies have faced challenges equally as daunting as our own and that there's a track record of how to succeed and how to fail when faced with these challenges.

If you're not familiar with Hanson, reviewing his back columns on National Review Online is well worth your time. As an example, check out this one which discusses, among other topics a war with Iraq. It is immediately relevant to the headlines in today's paper, but it was written almost a year ago, just a few weeks after the WTC attack.


Friday, May 03, 2002
The Real Meaning of Genocide

Last night, I was watching the tube and just about ready to hit the hay when I began my last sweep through the channels before retiring to bed. You know just in case something really unusual was on that would never be on again like the episode where Scratchy finally gets Itchy (Wow! They'll never let us show that again. Not in a million years).

I happen across a documentary about genocide on PBS and it is just starting. Drat the luck! This is something I want to see. I realize that this puts me among the .0067% of the population (which probably includes all of you as well) who actually would be disappointed that we can't stay up and watch a show about mass killing.

I elected to indulge myself and watch the first half hour of the show. Now I fancy myself a decent student of history and in particular the 20th century and felt I had a good grasp of the genocidal acts in recent history including the Holocaust, the Ukrainian famine of the 30's, the Armenians in the 20's, Cambodia, and so. But I was struck by the first two subjects of last night's show and how little I really knew about them.

The first was China. In 1959-1960 as part of Mao's "Great Leap Forward" around two million Chinese peasants were more or less intentionally starved to death in an effort to revolutionize and modernize Chinese agriculture. Two million.

The next segment was on Cambodia which I was much more familiar with. However, if you stop and really consider the numbers what occurred there from 75'-79' under the Khmer Rouge is mind boggling.. Estimates are that one to three million people were exterminated in the "killing fields". That in and of itself is horrifying but you also must account for the fact that Cambodia's population in 1975 was around ten million. So somewhere between ten and thirty percent of the population was eliminated in under five years.

Numbers like these are almost impossible to comprehend and to it is difficult to think of the immense human suffering that resulted from these acts of genocide. But how many Americans today even have the faintest idea of what transpired in these countries in the not so distant past? I'm sure that most college students would be able to tell you all about the four students shot at Kent State protesting the Vietnam War and the massacre of hundreds(possibly as high as five hundred) of Vietnamese civilians at My Lai. And indeed they both were tragic and regrettable incidents. But what do they know of the support from North Vietnam and China that fueled the Khmer Rouge insurgency or of the fact that when the US decided to wash it's hands of Southeast Asia and refused to send supplies to the Lan Nol government it directly led to the murderous Khmer Rouge seizing control? Do they know that the Khmer Rouge were French educated Communists intent of imposing their view of a Communist utopia at any cost? That as horrible as the Holocaust was it is easily eclipsed by the numbers murdered in Communist genocides throughout the century?

To turn the Gospel on it's head a bit, it seems at time that Americans(and the West in whole) can notice the little piece of dust in our own eyes but yet ignore the big piece of wood in the eyes of others.

Today, you can see an example of this in the clamor for an investigation into the "massacre" at Jenin. The total numbers of dead vary between fifty one and fifty three in the reports I've seen. According to the Israelis forty four of the fifty one were armed fighters and the other seven were civilians whose deaths they regret. The Palestinian's acknowledge that some of the dead were fighting but claim more were civilians. The Israeli Army reported twenty three soldiers killed in the fighting. Think about it.

A fierce battle that lasted for days involving tanks, helicopter gunships, RPGs, automatic weapons, and God knows what else in a densely packed urban environment and we need to investigate to determine why a few dozen civilians may have been killed? How about a study to look at how the IDF was able to carry out such an operation with such a minimal loss of civilian life?

I daresay that in the annals of modern military history I cannot think of one instance of an army entering a city to engage enemy forces in intense firefights and having so few "collateral" causalities. The fact that twenty three Israelis soldiers were killed is a testament to the care that the IDF took to avoid civilian causalities. Kicking doors in one at a time and rousting out those inside is a much more dangerous task then simply leveling buildings with tanks and mowing down those inside as they flee. Or surrounding a city and leveling it with artillery and aerial bombing as the Russians did to Grozny not that many years ago.

Why is it that the intentional deaths of millions driven by a inhumane ideology are so easily forgotten and never called to accountability (how many Americans who have supported Communism have ever admitted their culpability in the horrors the movement spawned worldwide?) while any incident by the US or it's allies(now pretty much limited to Britain and Israel) that results in any loss of live is magnified and never allowed to rest no matter how unintentional it was or how many times we admit our fault and apologize it?


We are the wind beneath the right wing.

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